As the Bears close in on the end of the pre-camp portion of their offseason (OTA’s finish on Thursday, with a three-day minicamp next week), they will get another look at tackle-turned-guard Gabe Carimi, who has opted to pass up the voluntary work sessions and focus on rehab in Arizona of the knee injury that ended his rookie season and bothered him through last season.
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Carimi will make the mandatory minicamp, a source told CSNChicago.com. But both the Bears and Carimi have some sorting out to do.
The Bears can release Carimi. His salary of $1,016,458 is guaranteed but the Bears are unlikely to take the full hit. The contract also contains an offset provision, meaning that the Bears’ obligation is reduced by the amount of his new pay. The recent collective bargaining agreement sets a minimum of $525,000 for players with two years’ service.
A dilemma for the Bears, however, is that an NFL reality is that there are simply not enough good offensive linemen to staff all 160 starting positions. Carimi may be considerably short of “good” at this point in his career but giving up on a tackle is not a move to be made lightly or in haste.
At tackle, J’Marcus Webb is in a contract year and Jonathan Scott, 30, is signed only through 2013 as well. There are other options in the form of fifth-rounder Jordan Mills and veteran Eben Britton, working at guard but who, like Carimi, has been a tackle.
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Marc Colombo, also a 29th pick, in 2002, was waived by the Bears in early 2005 after missing all of the 2003 and most of the 2004 seasons with horrific knee problems. He subsequently played five seasons with the Dallas Cowboys and was an every-game starting right tackle before suffering a broken leg in 2009. He retired in 2012 from a career that comprised 111 games played, 95 of them as a starter, including 16 with the Miami Dolphins in 2011.
If the Bears receive basically seven seasons of starting right tackle from Carimi, as Colombo managed despite his injuries, the word “bust” can be comfortably dispensed with.
Carimi will not want for work. He may have lasted until the 29th pick of the 2011 draft but if he is deemed healthy, his phone will ring if he hits the street.
Carimi’s choices have been whether to come in for workouts and compete at a position that is not his preferred one and the one for which he was drafted, or to stay away and follow his own recovery protocol. He’s already behind the Trestman learning curve but by his reckoning will be in the best possible shape after procedures to repair the knee that derailed his career two games into his rookie season.
One NFL veteran told CSNChicago.com that Carimi was making a mistake by not showing up because it could be read by some teams as not wanting to compete.
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The Bears officially do not see that in Carimi’s absence, nor have they picked up on any discontent with being slotted at guard rather than tackle.
“I will say with 100 percent conviction that Gabe never demonstrated or vocalized any disappointment [over his position],” said general manager Phil Emery. “He’s a competitor and he wants to continue to compete. He’s done what he’s felt is in his best interests to put himself in that position, and we’re going to honor that.”
Carimi is competing for a roster spot although his interest in remaining a Bear is suspect to say the least. Same with his chances of remaining a Bear, although if he cannot beat out James Brown he has bigger issues anyway.